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2 year old boy with very limited speech.. what is normal??

(26 Posts)
becca81 Sun 25-Sep-05 23:05:51

Hello, I'm new here so please bear with me whilst I get used to everything!
Our son has just turned 2 in mid September. He is a very bright and happy little boy, not to mention active! He especially loves birds and planes! But we are aware that the amount of words he can say is very limited compared to other children he has grown up with. We know that you shouldn't compare, but looking at the other 5 children, that are all around the same age, (2 months younger maximum.) All our son can say is "daddy, baby, byebye plane, shoes, two and mummy. I only heard him say mummy the other week when he was really poorly and he woke up in the night and called out for me. This was at 23 months old!! Most children are saying this at 6 months! Also, he recognises animals and makes the sounds that they make (e.g. Oink oink or Moo), but he won't say 'Piggy' or 'Cow'. We have always talked to him, shown him things taken him places so whay won't he talk? Its so frustrating! Its not as if he even attempts to repeat what we say to him. I try and ask him if he has had a good day at nursery, did he do painting,/ crayons / play in the garden etc but he sits there looking blank in the back of the car. Talking of nursery his carers say he has this thing about hugging other children, which sounds cute, but he over hugs them and can end up hurting the poor child he was hugging! My DH and me feel like its us against the world, both sets of Grandparents won't have a bad word said against him and keep telling us "oh it'll come, he'll be talking by the time he goes to school" but our argument is that he should be talking more now!! I mentioned it to our health visitor who is going to assess him for his 2 year old check up in October, and I know its only a matter of days away, but seems like ages away. When I told her that he said Mummy for the first time the other day I got a reply of "well its not a case of he can't say it, but that he won't say it". I know she's right, but it didn't help me much as I could've come to that conclusion myself!
Is there anything we can do? We have thought of so many things it could be, we've tried to be rational. We've been thinking about this since he was 12 months, we kept saying "when he gets to 15 months" then "when he gets to "18 months" These little milestones seem to come and go but with only small improvements. Are we being too hasty? Over anxious?? Any suggestions would be gratefully recieved as we've spent so many late nights, like this one, trying to work out what we can do for our DS.
Thank you so much for your time. I'm sorry its such a long message for a first posting. Looking forward to hearing your replies. Kind Regards, Rebecca.

puff Sun 25-Sep-05 23:14:14

Rebecca, hold out until his check up in October and try not to worry too much at this stage. I was anxious about ds1's speech at 2 - many of his contemporaries at nursery seemed to have so many more words, phrases and sentences. At around 2.5 his speech suddenly turned into a torrent! He's now 4.3, extremely articulate and been reading simple texts fairly fluently since Spring. Having gone through this anxiety with ds1, I'm much more chilled about ds2 as he is following a similar pattern.

bensmum3 Sun 25-Sep-05 23:16:04

Hi, My ds was 2 in June and has been talking in sentences for as long as I can remember, but he has a friend who was 2 in February (and was declared healthy at his 2 year check) and still only says a couple of words including moo for cow.(2 yrs 7 months) All children develop at different rates and usually excel at different things.
I do think nursery must be exhausting for a child of this age and to want to sit and be quiet must be quite normal.
I hope his 2 year check is able to reassure you and dh, as he sounds like a delightful little boy.

morocco Sun 25-Sep-05 23:18:23

hi becca
it sounds like you are pretty worried about your ds. I don't know much about what is the 'norm' for speech but I do remember that ds1 only started 'talking' ie a couple of words strung together, at around 2, at 18 months he could only say around 5 words, he said 'mummy'a lot later than 6 months as well. He also kept up the animal noises instead of words for a long time - I would guess til around 2 and a bit. Now he's 3 and chatters away like anything. So perhaps it's not too much to worry about as such, especially as he has his 2 year assessment coming up anyway, so it's not like you're ignoring any possible problem in any case.(sorry, I know that won't stop you worrying in any case - I do sympathise!)

What has been worrying you since he was 12 months old - I'm guessing it's more than his speaking to be concerned from that age?

clary Sun 25-Sep-05 23:24:35

becca, hello and welcome.
I was interested to read yr post, but feel you don't have that much to worry about, though I agree that you should be aware of how he's doing and it sounds as if you are.
Most children are not saying Mummy at 6 mo! none of mine were anyway and I don't know many who say anything clearly at that age.
Remember that animal sounds count as words too you know. At his 2 yr check the HV will probably ask if he can name four things in a book (eg moo, teddy, ball, baa); also can you understand half of what he says?
Something I found helpful when worrying about my ds1's speech was to write down everything he said over a period of a few days - and it was a lot more words that I thought, even if some were only clear to me, or just half-words ("ba" for ball etc).
I think getting much response from a 2yo is hard. I ask all mine (i have 3 children) what they liked doing that day as a way of getting them to chat, but frankly ds2, who is almost 2.5, rarely offers much in response (tho his fave thing the other day was "mummy there" ( i had been off with him all day) bless!) So I wouldn't worry if he doesn't "tell" you much.
Does he point out things of interest (tractors, planes etc)? This, as Jimjams, a poster with a lot more knowledge than me on speech problems, would say, is very important as children with ASD, where non-talking is often an issue, rarely point.
The other main concern with a late talker is hearing, have you had this checked out?
hth and try not to worry, easily said I know.

Skribble Sun 25-Sep-05 23:34:02

I had a very similar experience with DS now 8. I was a nursery nurse so I knew his speach wasn't normal and was much more limited than his peers. I had a similar reaction from Grandparents who were very defensive and acted like I was putting him down when i spoke about his speach.

The Health Visitor never thought it was a problem but as soon as he started nursery they wanted him refered to the speach therapist. She decided it was a speach delay not a disorder. I.e. nothing physical affecting his speach just slower than the norm.

Was it the Health V who said that he won't say it? Becarefull not to assume this as you could get very frustrated thinking he can but won't say things. You can ask for a referal from your GP as well if HV doesn't.

The visit to the speach therapist was very reassuring as she could ascertain his hearing and understanding was fine. She was happy with the way his speach was improving and gave lots of advice on games and techniques to improve the vocabulary he used.

Over the last year I would say he has totaly caught up and sounds perfectly normal.

Hope it goes well for you .

bubble99 Sun 25-Sep-05 23:44:27

Hello becca.

I totally understand your concerns. My eldest son, now nearly 8, didn't start speaking 'properly' until he started nursery at two yrs 10 months. We noticed that he was a very 'quiet' baby, very little babbling etc. Up until 2yr10m he could imitate noises (drills, hammers, fire engines etc) but could only really say 'no,' 'yes,''mum' 'dad and he used to say 'there' to describe pretty much anything else.

My friend's son is 6 months younger and was talking clearly at one year. This made it especially difficult, not in any competitive sense, but because it threw our son's lack of language into sharp relief.

We got a referral to a speech therapist, which helped him to some extent, but the thing that helped most was starting nursery school. We, and the nursery, used Makaton signs to begin with, but he started to talk about two months after he'd started anyway.

I know how worried we felt. He was becoming so frustrated at not being able to express himself fully. And we were also frustrated at not being able to understand him properly.

Easy to say, but try not to worry. It might be worth seeing a speech therapist, just to put your mind at rest though.

Our son now talks clearly and rarely stops!

Tortington Sun 25-Sep-05 23:45:04

however just to confse things - if you suspect it may be a hearing problem - dont rely on the gp or speech therapist to tell you its ok. gets referred and get it checked out. my daughter was going to speech therapy i had some tenuos explaination of her being a twin and the assumption that i was sitting her in front of the telly - as all people who come from council houses do.

be very careful of assumptions. my dd was 10 before she was diagnosed at being deaf.

handlemecarefully Sun 25-Sep-05 23:51:00

When I read threads like this I usually trot out the example of one of my dd's little friends. This little girl was saying very little at age 2.4 / 2.5 and her mum started articulating her worries because her dd's peer group was saying so much more.

Then IT happened. This little girl just started saying more and more words and by the time she was 2.10 there was no difference between her ability to talk and her previously more advanced friends. Basically she just caught up all of a sudden.

kama Mon 26-Sep-05 00:14:50

Message withdrawn

becca81 Mon 26-Sep-05 07:14:24

Hello all you have replied to my original post, and thank you so much! I only post this last night at 11.00 and am totally amzaed how kind and thoughtful everyone is that I have ten replies to read!! I did forget to mention my DS's other word is "No!" LOL.
I have taken everything on board you have said and their is at least one part in all these replies which I can relate to! I will update this as soon as any new words come along / check up has happened.
Thanks again, this has made a good start to my week.

LadyTophamHatt Mon 26-Sep-05 07:38:07

My Ds3 was 2 on saturday and refuses point blank to talk. When he's in the right mood he'll say mummy, daddy, hippo, monkey, his brothers names, hiya, bye bye, car BUT he'd never say them if I say to him "say....hippo" or whatever. He simply shakes his head and walks off. He never talks infront of other people.
When our ds2 had his 2 year check(he's 4 now) the HV said "ohhh, we'd better keep an eye on his speech" because he had very limited speech but by the time he started nursey(3-4 months later) he was talking perfectly. I'm almost positive that they will say the same about my Ds3.

Our ds1 could talk in sentences at 13 months but if I could compare(sp?) ds1 and Ds2 speech at, say 3 years, then ds2 would be much much better. It seems the delay in learning it made the end result much much clearer. Ds1 was still falling over words at 3 whereas ds2 could say them clearly.

Errrr I'm not sure if any of that makes sense, been visiting family all weekend for the birthday boy and I'm exhausted. Can't be faffed to preview it either.....

Welcome to MN, you do kow you'll never escape don't you?

ernest Mon 26-Sep-05 08:07:01

My ds is about the same age as your ds and I would say he sounds absolutely normal to me. Def the same as my ds. I think if I asked my ds if he had done painting/crayons/play in garden etc he would look at me blankly too. Mine can't say 'yes' yet. He sort of laughs "haaaaa" as a yes. So I ask "do you want a banana" (sometimes have to repeat unless I am brandishing the object in his face) and he'll either say "haaa!!" or remain silent if he doesn't want it.

One way to promote speech is to ask questions that require communication. do you want x or z? for example. My friend's son was a slow talker (btw, I wouldn't consider your or my ds to be slow) and I noticed she often spoke at him (i'll just get you your sandwich/do you want juice (requiring just a nod or shake not do you want milk or apple juice eg) (or not) but little of it was interactive.

I would also relax & listen to your parents. He'll sense it if you're stressed or pushing him too far.

a good book about language development (and also contains some gen. development too) is "Baby Talk' by Dr Sally Ward.

Is he in nursery full time? Btw my ds also hugs other kids & also hits, followed by a loving stroke. Most kids don't appreciate it & I certainly don't. He's just a little kid.

becca81 Mon 26-Sep-05 09:15:52

Hi again, I got a lot of answering to do to your questions. I think last night I was exhausted, worried, etc and having finally found somewhere to air my worries it all tumbled out at once! Looking back at my post I realise I sound quite harsh on the poor litle guy.
OK, questions.. he is in nursery 2 days a week. This is because I thought it would help him to come on in his speech. At home he seemed to be getting away with "aa aa a" for wanting something and I would figure out he wanted a biscuit and give it to him rather than getting to DS to ask for bicbic. At nursery there are other children so he has to talk to get what he wants! He soon picked up bicbic!
Secondly I can so relate to the comment by ladytophamhatt about her son refusing to talk infront of people. We won't greet anyone with a Hello.. even myself when I pick him up from nursery, infact he says No! and runs away.. but thats another post.
Thirdly I mentioned 6 months as we had Dadda then and slight babbling but it seemed to disspear and we've been keeping an eye on him since he was twelve months old as we thought we might have been getting "dink" for drink, but nothing!

Finally as regards to his hearing, he had the check on it where the HV distracted him with a toy, then another HV used a bell / squeaky toy / rattle near his ears to see if DS turned to see what it was. I don't think it was very comprehensive myself! However, if I do whisper to DS he does hear me and makes a whispering voice himself, not actually saying anything, just some made up sentence. He is also very good at shouting and normal pitch. I will look into it though. Thanks for the suggestion.
He dpoes point things out, and sometimes uses wounds to describe what they are e.g police car "nee-nor" aeroplane "neeeooowwmm".
I just know now I've typed all this and asked for your help he'll prove me wrong and start talking!
Thanks again for your help and suggestions. I will use all of them.
p.s as for the comment about never leaving.. I'm pretty hooked as it is now, so I can believe that!!

Caththerese1973 Mon 26-Sep-05 10:16:40

hi becca
from what I read around on this site (in posts by mothers of non-talking or slow to talk kids)a child of two who has little to say is probably 'just a late talker' IF he points at things and makes non-verbal gestures. If he does not point, and doesn't try to communicate more non-verbally, then maybe you would have cause for concern.
My little girl was a late talker too, but now she is two and a half and has totally caught up with her peers! (and by the way, very few six month old babies can say 'mummy', as far as I know! All the books say they 'should' have a few words by 12 months, but going on my own observations of the many toddlers I know, a few words by 18 months seems to be more the norm. True, many children of two have a lot to say, but the ones that don't aren't necessarily afflicted with a serious problem).
To me it sounds as if he is on the verge of his speech explosion: I remember that my dd was into making the animal noises etc JUST before she really started to get going. Also, like your son she had just a handful of words for many many months and then quite suddenly started to pick up a lot of words rapidly.
Does he babble a lot? If he doesn't babble, perhaps a hearing test might be a good idea. He might have had an undetected ear infection that has impaired his hearing a little. This sort of partial hearing loss is common in toddlers: I am pretty sure my dd had it, as she had a lot of ear infections. It is easily resolved.
If he doesn't yet point with his index finger at the things he wants, or the things he thinks are interesting, you should probably have him looked at by a developmental specialist. I don't want to panic you, but non-pointing, it seems, is actually a much bigger worry than non-talking at this age. As one mother of an autistic child posted quite recently (in response to a similarly concerned parent) the acquisition of actual words are NOT the crucial aspect of learning to talk. It is the PRINCIPLE of communication that matters - ie the child understanding that he needs to make his needs and desires known to others, whether by words or non-verbal communication.
I hope it all goes well for you!

Carmenere Mon 26-Sep-05 10:28:48

Becca Welcome to Mumsnet, on a lighter note my mother tells me that my older brother diddn't talk until he was 3. apparently he used to solely communicate through his 4yr old sister. Anyway he started and didn't stop and is now a sucessful architect, the chances are that your little fellow is just a late talker

aloha Mon 26-Sep-05 10:33:25

He's pointing and he has quite a few words, so he sounds perfectly fine to me. Moo and Woof and Nee-naw are absolutely great words - they are his names for things. Just because they aren't in the dictionary doesn't mean he isn't talking!
Take no notice of 'dada' at six months. That isn't a word as he has no idea what it 'means' - it's just normal babble that all babies do. It only has a meaning at six months because we give it one. My dd says mama, only she doesn't of course, she is just practising sounds. She is seven months and says nothing. I have never heard of a baby of six months using clear words purposefully.
He points, he communicates, he listens to you and understands you, so I think he's fine, and I suspect he will catch up. Keep an eye on him of course, but don't panic!

coppertop Mon 26-Sep-05 10:39:35

Does he understand everything you say to him? If so then it is definitely a good sign.

I have 2 late-talkers. Ds1 didn't say a single word at 2yrs old. The HV told me that even though the checklists say "Should be able to say 20 words" they are actually happy with just 6 words. My ds1 was later diagnosed with autism. He didn't understand any language despite having excellent hearing. He never tried to show me things he was interested in and had to be taught how to point. Ds2 (now 2.7yrs) didn't start to speak until 23mths. With speech therapy he can now speak in clear sentences BUT he understands only very simple sentences, eg "Kick ball" "Go shops". His language development is disordered and he too is autistic. Again he would never show me anything he was interested in and had to be taught how to point etc.

If your ds is pointing at things, can understand you and has play-skills then I don't think you would need to worry too much about autism tbh. As others have said it may be a good idea to check his hearing to rule out any problems there.

Monkeysmom Mon 26-Sep-05 13:03:18

My brother did not say a word until he was 3 years old. My mum was really worried. However, when he started, he was putting together sentences. He just waited until he could talk “properly”. He is now a very intelligent and successful man .
My son is 18 mo and only says Mama and Dada but I am not worried at all. I am also bringing him up bilingual and I think that this will make him a late talker anyway.

Cristina7 Mon 26-Sep-05 13:13:38

Rebecca - is his hearing fine? Children with a small hearing loss (due for exaple to persistent glue ear) can have a delay in speech, which is then easily overcome.

A good website for speech norms etc is at

colditz Mon 26-Sep-05 13:26:12

My son did not say Mummy until he was 2.2.

He is still lagging behind him peers, but his comprehension is fine, and the speech therapist is not that worried, and says he will catch up.

At 2 years old, he would say car, ball, dog, and make a lot of vehicle and animal noises. Now at 2.5 he will ask quite clearly for "Fresh milk please daddy" "Bubblebath mummy please" etc, but has only been doing so for 8 weeks.

clary Mon 26-Sep-05 13:37:06

That’s a very good post as usual Aloha. Spot-on.

oops Mon 26-Sep-05 13:37:28

Message withdrawn

merglemergle Mon 26-Sep-05 13:45:10


we went through similar with ds. he's now using sentances (just) at 24 months. Teaching him to sign @ 21 months was a real breakthrough though-definately would recommend if hes getting frustrated.

think main thing is whether he undrestands you much of the time. and whether he communicates in any way.

i was a really early talker btw. my partner didn't talk til he was 3. guess which of us has the oxford first and the phd?

and guess which one is stuck at home on MN?

dollybird Mon 26-Sep-05 21:46:38

My ds was saying loads of words at 15m and putting words together at 18m so when dd was only saying no and dada at 18m I was really worried. Needn't have been though as she caught up all of a sudden (now 25m) and think she even says more than ds did at that age as she copies everything he says (and everything he does too!!).

They seem to expect of lot of little kids (ie 20 words by age 2 etc) but at my ds's 3 1/4 check they only expect sentences of up to four words!! Your ds has got loads of time to catch up!

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